Student group leads charge for racial equity

Students hold up signs advocating for racial equality. (Samuel Marshall/Emerald)

The Black Student Task Force at the University of Oregon is pushing administration to help black students succeed and make them feel safer on campus.

After the release of the BTSF’s list of demands, the group joined student groups nationwide that have also issued lists of demands addressing similar struggles and goals regarding racial issues at their schools.

Joseph Lowndes, an associate professor of political science who participated in the rally at UO, says that this high-energy national movement was inspired by the event at the University of Missouri, the Black Lives Matter movement and the recent insurgencies around police killings – all of which address systemic racism.

“This is a moment where there is a lot of inspirational work going on to change something that has been needing change for a long time,” Lowndes said.

Shaniece Curry, External Director of the Black Women of Achievement, says that the recent rally on Nov. 13 was not only a national call-to-action regarding the events in Missouri, but also brought the struggles of black students to the forefront for administrators at UO.

Since the rally, members of the BSTF have been speaking with administrators about their demands.

“The purpose of the rally was to stand in solidarity with the [Black students] of the University of Missouri [and] recognize that this is not an isolated event. It’s not just something that is happening on their campus,” Curry said.

With only 1 and 2 percent of faculty and students identifying as black respectively, Curry says that the racial climate at the UO is tense because black students do not feel like they are safe, respected or supported. She also says the racial environment at the school makes it difficult for black students to succeed and grow.

In an effort to help black students succeed at the university, the task force included in its list of demands the creation of an African-American Opportunities Program, funding for a scholarship designed to support students who identify as black, and an increased hiring of black faculty.

“There is not enough resources on campus for [Black students] to thrive,” Curry said.

Although the school has the Center for Multicultural Academic Excellence, which aims to serve underrepresented and under-served students, Curry says that some students are dissatisfied with CMAE and chanted “CMAE is not enough” at the rally.

Joaquin Ramos, Ethnic Studies major and co-director of the Multicultural Center, says that it is important for students to stand in solidarity with the struggle of black students.

After working closely with Curry and the Black Women of Achievement for the rally, Ramos hopes to see progress made with administrators.

“It’s good to start these conversations, but I don’t know if [administrators] will be able to solve everything,” Ramos said.

However, Curry is optimistic that the BTSF will be able to achieve more.

“This is only the beginning,” Curry said.

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